While most soldiers of World War I are largely forgotten and only pictures and a few letters remain, one local woman “remembers” her brother.
Mary (Naugle) Minor was born May 5, 1925.
From her earliest age, she remembers her parents, Levi and Valeria (Pechart) Naugle, speaking of her brother, Raymond, who died in the Great War. Her fascination with him and the stories and music of the war filled her childhood. She loved the songs from the war era and would sing them robustly, which greatly upset her mother. The connection she had to Raymond was strong even though she never met him.
Raymond Lafayette Naugle was born July 17, 1899, in Walnut Bottom. The family called him “Pitt.” He was their second child. They would have 10 more children after him, including the youngest, Mary. Raymond grew up on a farm on Pine Road across from what is now the Walnut Bottom Rod and Gun Club. Levi worked on the railroad in the Enola yards and he would stay in Enola during the week. He came home on the weekends, and was a big help for his mom around the farm when his father was gone.
When the war began on July 28, 1914, Raymond was 15 years old. The war continued to rage for almost three years until on April 6, 1917, the United States entered the war. Local men began enlisting in the military and Raymond, now 17, wanted to join their ranks. However, he was underage and needed parental consent. His father refused to give him permission, so Raymond had to wait. On July 20, three days after his 18th birthday, he went to Carlisle and enlisted in the Pennsylvania National Guard.
Raymond was assigned as a private to Company G of the 8th PA Infantry, which later became the 112th Infantry of the 28th Division. Howard Booty, who was working in Shippensburg at Beistle Co. during part of the war (and was later killed in action), was also in the 112th Inf., but in Co. L. It is likely that the two knew each other. In the same regiment was Shippensburg local Walter Plasterer, an orderly, who survived the war and later retired from the Army with the rank of major.
Raymond was sent to Camp Hancock in Georgia for training. While he was in Georgia, he was allowed to come home for a visit. The trip would cost $25, and Raymond had been saving his money. Sadly, someone stole his money and he never made it home to say goodbye before he shipped overseas.
The regiment arrived in France and trained throughout May and June. In the early morning hours of July 4, they were awakened and given orders to immediately pack up and be prepared to march toward the front. On July 6, a detail of men from each company and the trench mortar platoon of the Hdq. Co. went “over the top” at Hill 204. The rest of the regiment waited behind until the next morning when they received news of what had happened to their buddies. The 112th had its first taste of war as the casualty list came back with the names of the dead, wounded and missing.
On July 7, two platoons from the regiment, one from Co. G and one from Co. I, were sent into action with the French. An account of their experiences states, “Exposed to shellfire, subjected to front-line hardships and battling in a hot July sun, now and then sustaining casualties that might have broken the spirit of men less determined, these platoons, sent into the front line for 'purposes of training' gave a splendid account of themselves.” It is unclear if Raymond was among those from Co. G sent to the front, but it seems very likely as it is reported in his records that he had”shell shock,” received on July 9.
From Aug. 6 through 8, the 112th crossed the Vesle River and attacked the village of Fismette, which was strongly held by the Germans. It was here that Howard Booty, a member of the 112th Co. L mentioned earlier, died on the 7th while the regiment was trying to cross the river. Once the 112th reached Fismette, savage fighting ensued in the streets, some of it being hand-to-hand combat. The regiment suffered 41 killed, 168 wounded, 128 gassed and 59 missing. The regiment was relieved by the 111th on the 9th and 10th.
On the 18th, the 112th was back in Fismette again. Totaling more than 200 soldiers, Companies G and H of the regiment held the village. On the morning of the 27th, the enemy proceeded to lay down a barrage of heavy fire and then the German troops descended upon the Americans with grenades, flame throwers and machine guns. Only about 30 soldiers were able to escape back across the Vesle to safety. The rest were killed or taken prisoner. Raymond was not among those killed or taken prisoner, so this could only mean that he was one of the fortunate few who were able to escape the German onslaught.
Despite the ordeals to which he was subjected, when Raymond wrote home to his family he never mentioned having shell shock, his harrowing escape from the Germans or the terrible things he saw or experienced. He would just ask about the folks back home. One would guess that he was trying to spare them the agony of knowing the extent of his suffering and the danger to which he was exposed.
The 112th then went on to participate in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive (Sept. 26-Oct. 9) and in the Thiaucourt Sector (Oct. 16-Nov. 11). Casualties were high, but the end was in sight and on Nov. 11, 1918, the war ended with the signing of the Armistice, which stipulated that fighting would cease on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
It seemed that Raymond had made it through the war as no word was received by Raymond's family back in Walnut Bottom that anything had happened to him. They believed that everything was fine with him and that they would hear from him shortly. Weeks turned into months without hearing anything of his whereabouts.
A letter was received in February from 2LT Richard H. Sudds of Co. L of the 112th. In it he said, “Private Naugle was wounded in action in the Argonne Forest, somewhere between the villages of Apremont and Chatel-Chehery, about the 5th of October. He was struck in the wrist with a machine gun bullet, which came out at the elbow. I do not regard the wound as serious. He was able to make his way back to the first aid station unassisted.” He went on to say, “I would venture an opinion that he is all right except as stated.”
Finally on April 28, 1919, a letter was received from the American Red Cross that stated an investigation was made and the records of the War Department “show that he was killed in action, and as this report has also been given out by both the Sergeant of his Company and the Colonal (sic) of his regiment, we fear that it is correct.”
The official date of death eventually given was Nov. 8, 1918.
According to Mary, no one in the family was ever told by the military what happened to him.
Raymond's remains were interred in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery. The family chose to leave his body there. As a Gold Star Mother, Valeria had the chance to go to France to visit Raymond's grave at the expense of the American government, but she decided against it.
Raymond was the last person from the Shippensburg area to die in World War I.